Wantable crowdsourcing homemade face masks to help combat coronavirus

Jalem Getz, president of Wantable.

Last updated on March 24th, 2020 at 07:57 pm

Milwaukee-based online clothing retailer Wantable is aiming to use its technology, logistics and fulfillment center to connect at-home sewing volunteers with the increasing demand for face masks.

The company launched its “Sew Good” initiative Tuesday. The idea is that volunteers will receive instructions on how to make masks and a prepaid shipping label to send completed masks to Wantable.

Once received, the masks will be inspected for quality and distributed to hospitals and first responders. Wantable’s research prior to launching the program showed hospitals are sterilizing volunteer-supplied masks before using them with N95 masks to extend the life of the latter, which are already in short supply.

“We have the opportunity to leverage our technology and resources to empower our customers, employees and anyone with a sewing machine to help our community,” said Jalem Getz, founder and CEO of Wantable. “Everyone at Wantable was eager to help, and now we get a chance to support those on the medical frontlines who are running out of supplies.”

Wantable is launching the initiative over multiple phases. The first phase asks volunteers to use materials they have at home to make masks. The second phase will include sending kits with cotton fabric and elastic to volunteers. The company is partnering with vendors and auditing existing inventory to source materials that can be made into masks.

The plan is to start distribution locally and grow as supply and demand allows.

“We know even the most carefully crafted homemade masks are not a replacement for medical-grade masks, but when we heard some health-care workers are being asked to reuse masks, or create their own at home, we knew we needed to help with the temporary shortage,” Getz said.

More information on contributing masks is available here.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.